The Axia Institute’s Dr. Bahar Aliakbarian led a group of MSU faculty in a plastic-focused think tank on June 6, 2019. Each researcher was given 10 minutes to deliver their proposed solution on the plastic waste problem. Ideas were organized around new materials, recycling and collection processes, and education designed to reverse global plastic dependency. There was a quick discussion period after all the presentations, but the event primarily served as a brainstorming session.
Organizations around the world have turned their focus to reversing the environmental impacts of plastic. Corporations like Aldi have publicly committed to 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced eliminating single-use plastic by 2021. The team of MSU researchers is focused on securing funding from one of the many nonprofits dedicated to the global plastics crisis. There are plenty of organizations to align with- a quick search revealed upwards of 50 searching for solutions to address this growing environmental threat. Major nonprofits in the plastics sector include the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the Ocean Conservancy. The Axia Institute is eager to partner with fellow nonprofit organizations in order to put our grand solutions into action.
The most challenging aspect of this research is that there is no “right” answer. Researchers must decide if it is better to replace plastic with a biodegradable substitute, focus on removing existing plastic from our ecosystems, or combine multiple strategies. Luckily, there is a group of brilliant Spartans devoted to the task. The think tank welcomed Dr. Ramani Narayan (Chemical & Material Engineering), Dr. Mojgan Nejad (Forestry), Dr. Annick Anctil (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Dr. Rafael A. Auras (School of Packaging), Dr. Andre Benard (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. John R. Dorgan (Chemical Engineering & Materials Science), Dr. Eric L. Hegg (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology), Dr. Joan B. Rose (Fisheries & Wildlife), Dr. Christopher M. Saffron (Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering), Dr. Xiaobo Tan (Electrical & Computer Engineering), and Dr. William A. Donohue (Communication).
For more information on the Axia Institute’s plastic waste efforts, please contact the Axia Institute.